Master of Sorrows by Justin Call – REVIEW
You have heard the story before – of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who comes to a fuller knowledge of his magic and uses it to fight the great evil that threatens his world.
But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same?
What if the boy slowly came to realize he was the reincarnation of an evil god? Would he save the world … or destroy it?
Among the Academy’s warrior-thieves, Annev de Breth is an outlier. Unlike his classmates who were stolen as infants from the capital city, Annev was born in the small village of Chaenbalu, was believed to be executed, and then unknowingly raised by his parents’ killers.
Seventeen years later, Annev struggles with the burdens of forbidden magic, a forgotten heritage, and a secret deformity. When he is subsequently caught between the warring ideologies of his priestly mentor and the Academy’s masters, he must choose between forfeiting his promising future at the Academy or betraying his closest friends. Each decision leads to a deeper dilemma until Annev finds himself pressed into a quest he does not wish to fulfil.
Will he finally embrace the doctrine of his tutors, murder a stranger, and abandon his mentor? Or will he accept the more difficult truth of who he is … and the darker truth of what he may become…
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Gollancz. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“Sometimes lies can protect us, and truths can kill us.”
If you’re looking for a new fantasy series to begin then I highly recommend Master of Sorrows, the first book in the Silent Gods series. I wanted to read this as soon as I saw the tagline floating around asking “what if you were destined to be a villain?”. The idea that the main character the reader comes to empathise with and root for might end up being the villain of the story is certainly intriguing and I look forward to following Annev’s journey. Despite this being almost 600 pages, I read it in a couple of sittings as I didn’t want to put it down thanks to the complex characters, good pacing, and fantastic worldbuilding.
“But with the passing of ages it is possible for history to give way to legend, and legend to myth, until it is no longer clear what was true and what was merely a story.”
Seventeen-year-old Annev is a wonderful main character and deservedly takes centre-stage in this coming-of-age story. The most interesting aspect for me was his disability, which is perceived as shameful by the society in which he lives due to its association with Keos the Fallen. Otherness and disability as a signifier of villainy is a well-worn and damaging trope that I look forward to the author continuing to challenge throughout the series. There were so many memorable characters, particularly Sodar, Fyn and Myjun, that I can’t wait to meet again or hopefully revisit in some way.
“But Annev was a phoenix. He would find a way to rise from the ashes.”
The magic system was well-developed and enhanced the plot rather than eclipsing it. I’m a big fan of training scenes and schooling so loved the scenes set at the Academy of Chaenbalu. There’s a fascinating Q&A with the author over on Always Trust In Books exploring why the author made certain decisions and his plan for the rest of the series. This book ends with enough questions that I can’t wait for the sequel and I’m now completely invested in Annev’s journey. If you’re looking for a well-written and refreshing fantasy then I’d highly recommend Master of Sorrows.